Summary: The Canaanite Woman
The comedian Jeff Foxworthy became famous with his routine, "You might be a redneck if . . .” You know the ones. Like:
You might be a redneck if you took a fishing pole to Sea World.
You might be a redneck if your dad walks you to school because you’re both in the same grade.
What you might not know is that there are redneck churches too. You might be in a redneck church if:
• People ask when they learn that Jesus fed the 5000, whether the two fish were bass or catfish, and what bait was used to catch ’em.
• When the pastor says, "I’d like to ask Bubba to help take up the offering", five guys and two women stand up.
• Opening day of deer season is recognized as an official church holiday.
• A member of the church requests to be buried in his 4-wheel-drive truck because "It ain’t never been in a hole it couldn’t get out of,"
• Baptism is referred to as "branding."
• High notes on the organ set the dogs to howling.
• The collection plates are really hub caps from a ’56 Chevy.
We could do the same things with Pharisees. You might be a Pharisee if:
• You pray in public, but not in private (Mat 6:5)
• You judge people by the company that they keep (Mat 9:11)
• You think that if somebody else does something good, they must be involved in some sort of scam (Mat 9:34)
• You think that it is bad to do good on the Sabbath (Mat 12:2)
• You think that your traditions and observances, not your character, determine your purity (Mat 15:12)
• You like to teach the law to others, but do not follow it yourself (Mat 23:2)
• You think that tithing is more important than justice (Mat 23:23)
Hold on there. I represent the PADL that is the Pharisee Anti-Defamation League. The PADL is tired of you preachers giving Pharisees a bad name. If any of you in this room had been around in the first century, you would have thought of Pharisees as the most honorable and respectable of all people. They were among the most powerful and influential religious leaders of their day.
The term “Pharisee” means separate one. During the period of Greek occupation of Israel, the Pharisees were the ones who encouraged the people to remain true to God and to reject Greek culture, Greek philosophy, and Greek religion. Without the Pharisees, the Jewish faith might have disappeared. Their concern for the purity of ritual and religious tradition continued into the first century.
The Pharisees had great respect for religious tradition, for scripture, and especially for the law. During the time of Jesus, they were thought of as the foremost authorities when it came to understanding what the law taught.
Pharisees were generous in their giving. They were tithers. They prayed several times each day, often in public so that they could serve as an example to others. It was incredibly difficult to maintain ritual purity, and yet they never shirked from the task.
Anyone of us would have admired the faith and devotion of these holy men – probably holier than any of us. They obviously had deeply held beliefs that they practiced with faithfulness, sincerity and discipline. The Pharisees have gotten a bum rap.
What you are saying may be true, but it misses the point. The Pharisees taught a faith that was all about the external observation of a collection of rules. It is impossible for anyone to obey all the rules all the time, so the Pharisees set up a different standard. They sought assurance of their own righteousness by comparing themselves to the sinfulness of others. Instead of accepting others as fellow children of Abraham - who were also God’s chosen, they saw themselves as the true and faithful remnant of the people of Israel. They had to maintain a separation from those around them so that they could avoid infection and remain pure. They saw God as a judge who might not find them sinless, but who would judge them to be superior to others. They actually delighted in the failures of others because it made them feel more secure in the comparison. Sort of sounds like Junior High doesn’t it?
Because their faith was external, it ignored their character. Hatred, envy, or lust did not matter if they weren’t acted upon. That is why Jesus called them “white washed tombs” – beautiful on the outside, but utterly full of corruption.
This alone would have been bad enough, but there was something far worse that they did. They taught others that the only way to be acceptable to God was to emulate them. They imposed a religion of external faith. Anyone who listened to their words was led away from a relationship with a loving and forgiving God. The Pharisees knew a lot about God but they didn’t really know God.